Issue #38

Ranters’ promotions

TWO exclusive readers’ offers this week (we may not make a habit of doing this). Former Manchester freelance Peter Reece shares the secrets of his personal pension plan which appears – and we can say no more than this – to be a potential earner and an interesting and rewarding way to enjoy a flutter on the Lottery (the national one and/or the EuroMillions) with very little personal risk.

It is no part of our role to offer financial advice, but you can read Peter’s piece and you can judge for yourself by clicking on , and watching the promo film and making up your own mind. No doubt some Ranters will provide feedback within the near future.

Our second offer is an exclusive deal of ?2 off the recommended retail price of Ian Skidmore’s latest book, Forgive Us Our Press Passes. Some readers reported a level of dissatisfaction in ordering copies from Amazon and from Waterstones on-line, and thought that, since Skiddy is one of us, there should be a special deal for fellow Ranters. So here it is. You can pay by using PayPal.

Otherwise, you can order a copy from any decent bookseller. You need to know that it is called Forgive Us Our Press Passes; author, Ian Skidmore; publisher Revel Barker; ISBN 978-0-9558238-0-0. Or, if you are really strapped, you can quote the same information and ask your local library to get you a copy.

Back to real life, as we used to call it.

Two contributors, memories jogged by our note last week about most people missing Wayzgoose, recall special celebrations.

Andy Leatham and friends founded the Society for the Preservation of the Wayzgoose and took a chara to Lancaster in an effort to fulfil their commitment. And there’s a picture to prove that they went. John Kay of The Sun remembers a Wayzgoose dinner in Sunderland of which there is, thankfully, no photographic record.

Cathy Couzens went all the way to Chicago, to celebrate St Patrick’s Day (where else would you go?) with Teddy Kennedy. Jack Grimshaw celebrates the immortal memory of the Duke of Wellington (how did the rest of us miss that one?). Harold Heyscelebrates copytakers.

And Alastair McQueen drops us a photo of a home for retired snappers.


Save the ’goose

By Andrew Leatham

Ah, the Wayzgoose… Such fond memories. Alcohol consumption on a scale that made Concorde’s fuel swallowing abilities look modest. Old scores settled. New grudges formed. Language that would make a docker turn Quaker. Adults at play.

Not long after Eddie Shah threw the spanner in the Maundy Thursday works by launching Today and saying he would publish every day of the year, a band of Manchester hacks, lead by the irrepressible Brian Whittle, founded the Society for the Preservation of the Wayzgoose. We had our own logo, a cross-legged – and cross-eyed – goose and we even had our own bank account for which we had to produce the minutes of the Society’s meeting that authorised the opening of such an account. I still have a copy. They read:


  • Item1: Mr. B. Whittle (Chairman) got the beer in
  • Item2: Mr. A. Leatham (Hon Sec) got more beer in
  • Item3: Mr. A. Thomas (Social Sec) got another round in

And so it goes on until Item 8 which simply states: ‘Someone suggested a bank account would be a good idea so it was decided to open one.’

Sadly, for reasons that I cannot recall, the Society was doomed to die a death when it was still nothing more than a Wayzgosling.

Our first outing managed to attract a degree of commercial sponsorship from those nice people who used to make Vladivar Vodka in Warrington, courtesy of the journalists’ friend, Phil Staniforth, owner of Staniforth PR.

We began, in time-honoured fashion, drinking Guinness and champagne in the office pub at 8.30am. About an hour later the coach, paid for by Mr Vladivar, arrived to transport us to a pub on the outskirts of Lancaster where we could legally drink the afternoon away (this was when pubs usually closed at 3pm) and indulge in a variety of healthy pastimes such as crown green bowls.

The first discovery we made was that the coach was carrying the marketing director of Greenalls Distillers Ltd. The second was that it was loaded down to the Plimsoll line with vodka and every conceivable kind of mixer.

We arrived in Lancaster about 11am to be met by a look of utter dismay from the landlady. I think it was first time she had ever had a coach party arrive pissed. And things just got worse. We started a bowls tournament which we thought was going well until the landlord appeared and bollocked us for bowling too fast and running on the green.

Then, diminutive Scottish photographer Brian Taylor, the original Poison Dwarf, fell asleep in a corner of the green, forcing us to use his head as a jack.

Things finally came to a head when the Dwarf, by now revived by ‘mair vodka!’ told the landlady exactly what he would like to do to her, if only she could get away from that …. of a husband of hers. His chat-up line began: ‘See me, I’m going tae ….. the ….. off you.’ We were invited to leave and never return.

The journey back to Manchester has long since vanished into the mists of oblivion. It’s highly possible we were invited to leave even more pubs but I have vague recollections of finishing up back in the office pub where the day ended, as it had begun, in traditional manner. With a scrap between two very, very emotional hacks.

Wayzgoose: The SPW arrives in Lancaster. Back Row: Steve White (Daily Mirror); George Dearsley (Daily Star); The Man From Vladivar; Boyd Milligan (News of the World). Standing, but only temporarily: Maurice Chesworth (Daily Mirror); Brian Roberts (Sunday Mirror); Brian Whittle (Cavendish Press); Alwyn Thomas (Sunday People); John Davies (Freelance photographer); Andy Leatham (Sunday People). Front Row: Alan Hart (News of the World); Ken Bingham (Daily Express); Clive Hadfield (Sunday Mirror); Tim Worsnop’s brother (The Sun); Tim Worsnop (Cavendish Press).


Ranters promotion

Save? 2 on Skiddy’s book

What has been hailed by this reviewer as the literary masterpiece of the year – Ian Skidmore’s newly published book, Forgive Us Our Press Passes – has been receiving brilliant reviews.

small,coverWithout exception the book has been hailed as ‘hilarious’.

He has been interviewed by nearly everybody from his local paper to the BBC, and much has been written about the garden shed with a lavatory and a library in Ely, Cambs, where he currently toils.

The book chronicles Skiddy’s life as a freelance writer, reporter, broadcaster and sometime night news editor in the northwest of England and in North Wales, with rollicking yarns about the eccentric, and often unlikely, characters he stumbled across or stepped over and some of the crazy stories he covered during the 50s, 60s and 70s.

As a special offer to readers of this website the book, which retails at ? 9.95 can now be bought direct from the publisher – [email protected] for ? 2.00 below the recommended retail price.

It’s now available for a mere ? 7.95, plus ? 1.05 post and packing.

Order it by sending ?9.00, andpaying via PayPal [ ].

Please include your name and address, including postcode, and a telephone number.

Books should arrive within five days of receipt of the order.


Sunderland spectacular

By John Kay

The tradition of Wayzgoose was strictly observed by the North-East press corps, and by none so enthusiastically as our legendary Gentlemen Ranters’ founder and editor in chief, Revel Barker.

For some years, the very generous and tolerant bosses of Whitbreads brewery had kindly earmarked one of their pubs, kicked out all their regular customers on Maundy Thursday, and turned over the premises for the entire day and night exclusively to Britain’s thirstiest group of reporters and snappers.

The chosen boozer resembled a normal pub in every respect except two – you lined up at the packed bar to get a pint, but never paid a penny. Secondly, a galaxy of young ladies who had no inhibitions about divesting themselves of their outer garments paraded their charms as dusk descended.

It was in 1973 when the cavalcade alighted on a Whitbreads boozer in the outer environs of Sunderland for that year’s Wayzgoose. It was such a prestigious occasion that the Mayor of Sunderland insisted he had a right to attend. Local freelance Ted Elkins said that would be acceptable, but pointed out that the affair was fancy dress, so the council chief turned up dressed as Henry VIII, complete with gold tights and his wife’s gold lame handbag – to find everybody else wearing blazers and flannels.

Professor Stanley Blenkinsop, then the top man for the Express in the North-East, never failed to turn up – and always provided a commentary of the entertainment with references to his favourite hobby. An impromptu cabaret was provided by sportswriter Bob Cass – still going strong on the Mail on Sunday – who could have been a professional comic as he easily out-gagged Eric Morecambe and Tommy Cooper rolled into one

As Cass left the stage to tumultuous applause, the first of the procession of gorgeous strippers appeared to leering cheers from the assembled hacks.

One Revel Barker, then in the North-East bureau of the Daily Mirror, took up his accustomed position in the front row and leaned forward intently to make sure that he was just a hair’s breadth from the action.

As the second girl shimmied across the stage, she caught sight of our distinguished Ranters editor with his bespectacled eyes glued to her nether regions.

Without breaking her dance routine, she executed a few slinky passes, just inches from his nose and with one swift move removed his horn-rimmed spectacles. To roars of approval, she secreted the specs in a very intimate part of her anatomy and continued to gyrate for at least another ten minutes as she got rid of all her clothes.

Then, as the tension mounted and Revel squinted even harder, she produced the bins just like a magician taking an egg from behind a punter’s ear.

She proceeded to put the steamed-up spectacles back on the nose of our revered editor… where they remained firmly in place for the rest of the evening. It was reliably reported that the Mayor of Sunderland heard Revel sigh: ‘I’ve died and gone to heaven’…

And, who knows, he may still wearing them to this day in his island lair on Gozo….


Green as a primary colour

couzensBy Cathy Couzens

The madness that is America on St Patrick’s Day reminded me of a bitterly cold week spent in Chicago in 1978… well I think it was 1978, all I know was that the Daily Star brain, Peter Grimsditch, wanted me to go over and cover (no additional remarks please) Senator Edward Kennedy who was running in the Democratic primaries.

Peter thought Chicago was the best place to get the most out of the story so off I went, complete with full length fur coat, thick yeti boots and a hat that made me look like something out of Dr Zhivago. You have to remember I was once described in Private Eye as the least scruffy journalist in Fleet Street.

Chicago is one of my favourite cities so this was not a hardship. What I had never encountered before was March 17th in Chicago. They dyed the river green, they start drinking at dawn, the parade is at 10am and everyone is half crocked. It was snowing. Not nice little Dickens flakes as we get in the UK, oh no, stonking great lumps of ice and snow blasting from all directions. This is the Windy City and it believes in the title.

As usual I had no real idea what the hell I was doing but that never stopped me before and it didn’t this time. Everywhere Teddy went Cathy followed and I became new best friends with the secret servicemen. It was a superb show, Irish bands, Irish dancers, green stuff everywhere and drunks mixing with Irish policemen who would not arrest anyone that day. A large black man danced a jig with me, he was painted emerald green and his teeth were also green. Grand stuff and superb meat for this columnist who was having a ball.

The Secret Service guys were huge. I made best pals with a former Mr Birmingham Alabama; he was at least 6ft 7ins and had the best teeth I ever saw. I did my best to concentrate on the job… we were exhausted by the end of the day. Teddy was charming everywhere and tried not to drink too much, he sang and danced with the Irish and made sure he had their vote, which, being a Kennedy, he had already in hand.

We all went for a huge Chicago steak at a restaurant at the back of the famous Brown’s Hotel. It was heaving, I had never eaten steak like that before…you could cut it with a butter knife, and it was wonderful. Wine and beer flowed, and there were no worries until I realised that someone had taken my handbag. Oh crap. In my handbag, of course, was my purse, press pass, notebook with some of the best quotes ever to come out of TK’s mouth, and everything important. Gone. This was a huge restaurant, full of noisy press and even louder drunks, politicians and secret service.

For the first time in my life I actually burst into tears… those that know me know this NEVER happened and to be honest it was probably half wine and half fear…. his lordship himself saw my face and came over. I told the last Kennedy ever to run for president that my life had been stolen, he looked concerned, tapped my shoulder with concern and went back to his table.

I have no idea what happened, all I know is that two hours later a Secret Service agent tapped on my bedroom door and handed me the handbag. It was all there.

I asked him if he had to kill someone for it and he tapped his nose.

These days, living in America as I have done for 27 years, I hear a lot of bad things about the Kennedy family – and right now I watch from afar as the press corps work their arses off to get new tales out of the primaries… I am glad I am not there, but I have good memories and I am not just talking about Mr. Birmingham Alabama!

  • Cathy Couzens started on the Brighton and Hove Gazette in 1968, worked for the Evening Argus at the same time and moved to Westminster Press London office in 1974, doing days for WP and nights at the Daily Mail. She became a reporter on the Daily Express, later moving to the Daily Star. In 1981 she met a man on an airplane, married him ten days later in Reno and has been in Houston, Texas ever since.  She still freelances, when called, and also gives talks on the Royal Family.


Putting the boot in

By Jack Grimshaw

When one’s personal coat of arms features crossed yard-of-ale glasses and the motto Kegito Ergo Sum (I drink, therefore I am), one does not require a reason for a few brews. However, when justification for a major bender is thrust under one’s nose, one would be an ungrateful wretch to not seize it.

So, one morning in 1972, perusing the dailies on the news subs’ desk at the Manchester Evening News, I came across an intriguing historical tidbit.

In 1830, Prime Minister Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, pushed through the Beerhouse Act. For two guineas, any householder or ratepayer in England or Wales could turn their private premises into a beer/ale/porter/cider tavern Monday through Saturday… even brewing their own product if so desired. The intention was laudable – to reduce the damaging high consumption of raw spirits (primarily gin, aka Mother’s Ruin).

The act not only failed in its intent, it was a social disaster of major proportions. In less than a month some 24,000 licences were taken out, primarily in areas with large populations of working-class people. Many of the new establishments quickly became places of ill-repute and the haunts of criminals. Within a fortnight, Sydney Smith wrote: ‘Everybody is drunk. Those who are not singing are sprawling. The Sovereign People is in a beastly state.’

This condition being something with which I was not entirely unfamiliar, inspiration struck. A conversation with colleague and dedicated imbiber Dave Manson, and the basic principles of a commemorative roust were soon established: news subs only (no sports, features or – God forbid – news reporter wankers); a Friday night in an area of numerous establishments; one drink in each. Agreed, 24,000 was a tad optimistic, but we’d certainly give it our best shot.

An invitation posted on the wall, featuring a magnificently endowed young lady from the Sun Page 3, aroused much interest. (It was the most enjoyable layout and writing I did for quite some time – in fact, until the next one.) The evening was a rousing success, much drink was took, I have absolutely no recollection of where it was.

And so The Dukes became an institution. Monthly, on Friday nights, a different locale was agreed on (Stockport, Cheadle, Didsbury, the darkest depths of Cheshire), copious amounts of beer were swilled (I seem to recollect one pub with a unique dart board featuring three triple-20 zones; I aimed at the middle one), much camaraderie and bullshit were shared. There were no major disagreements or fisticuffs, among ourselves or anyone else. Maybe we just didn’t stick around long enough in one spot for them to develop.

Always of some interest the following morning at the News was who made it in at what time and in what shape. Thankfully, chief sub on Saturdays was generally weekday copytaster Len Roberts, a gentleman with much more of a sense of humour than the two bleak individuals who usually ran the department.

There was a hard core (Jesus, isn’t there always where booze is involved?) – Manson, Peter Brewster (later, a Toronto Sun, Canada honcho), Tony Holt, Kevin Henry (son of former MEN editor Tom Henry), Barry Seddon, Dave Pickard, Simon Bygrave (son of Sunday ExpressManchester editor Howard Bygrave), Paul Jackson and me (son of the Daily MailManchester head printer).

Amazingly, a musical element emerged. Seddon on guitar, Henry displaying a dazzling virtuosity on spoons (a distant strain of Irish tinkers in the clan?), the rest of us harmonising, ululating and beating on the furniture, we delighted the locals (or so it certainly seemed at the time) with a variety of popular songs.

I vaguely remember a mouth organ, but that may be too many Brown Basstards – bottom half Bass, top half Newcastle Brown – repainting history’s canvas. I do know that for every round of drinks, with a clash of glasses, the salutation was the same – ‘Boots, baby!’

I like to think the Duke would have approved.


Sorry, just changing paper

By Harold Heys

James Pinkerton didn’t look much like a newspaperman. Bottle-bottom glasses, flat ’at, crumpled blue suit. He was quietly-spoken and a connoisseur of old books, fine wine and obscure classical music.

Pinky was a copy-taker with the Odhams operation in Manchester when I joined the Sunday People sports desk 40 years ago. He’d seen it all over the years and was never averse to gently subbing phoned copy as he went along. It was invariably better for his light touch.

And he was as laid-back as they come. Not for him the ‘any-more-of-this-shit?’ cracks. He was much too laid back and sophisticated.

Ken Ashton’s recent piece about copy-takers brought back a few memories from the dim and distant. Vaguely, through a haze of old age and Benedictine, I recall a Pinkerton tale that goes back 50 years.

Jackie Milburn, the former Newcastle legend, had moved on to be player-manager at Linfield and had quickly established himself, scoring dozens of goals for the Belfast club.

Malcolm Brodie, then and for many years the renowned sports editor of the Belfast Telegraph, was phoning over an Irish League report on Linfield against, possibly, Glentoran, their across-the-city rivals and Malcolm was waxing lyrical. It went something like this…


‘Yes,’ said Pinky as he carefully stirred his cup of tea.

‘Linfield v Glentoran.

‘Yes. Right.’

‘Wor Jackie – Make that caps. WORRRRRR JACKIE…’

‘How many Rs?’

‘Just the one. WOR JACKIE comma the demon dazzler who has thrilled millions of Geordies in a star-studded career with Newcastle United comma turned on his own special brand of magic at Windsor Park last night comma picking up a loose ball by the centre spot and racing up the right wing in a superbly-crafted weaving run cutting inside to dance past more flailing legs before crashing the ball into the top left-hand corner to a mighty roar from delirious fans dash a fifth minute goal that rocked the Glens on their heels point…

Pause for breath: ‘Got that?’

‘Yes,’ yawned the laconic James Pinkerton, sipping his tea. ‘I just typed: Milburn scored for Linfield after five minutes.’

Pinky was too sharp for hairy-arsed news editors. He once took a story from Scotland, while working on the Daily Herald in Manchester, and banged it through to the desk. Ten minutes later news editor Ken Tucker appeared, asking with a polished sneer: ‘What the hell is this Pinky. What on earth’s a bloody grilse? You lot should be more careful.’

Pinky explained that a grilse was a baby salmon.’ Well, I’ve never heard of it,’ mumbled Tucker and wandered off.

Late in the evening when it had quietened down Tucker reappeared, a little subdued. ‘Well, lads. What sort of a day has it been?’

‘A bit of a mixed grilse really, Ken,’ replied Our Hero.

The MirrorDublin man Jack Keneally was a legend in his own lunchtime and he often exasperated the Manchester copy-takers after a hectic afternoon session. One evening, the newsdesk wanted to know the second line of McNamara’s Band. (A bloke called Kevin McNamara was standing for Labour in a by-election in Hull North in January 1966, although it doesn’t really matter to the story.)

The minutes were ticking down to deadline and all anybody in the office could come up with was: ‘Oh, mi name is McNamara, I’m the leader of the band; Da-da-di-da. Da-da-di-da. Da-da-di-in-the-land’ Someone had a bright idea: Ring Jack. He’ll know.

After a few more precious minutes ringing all the pubs round the office on really bad lines they got. him. ‘No problem,’ said Jack… ‘Oh, mi name is McNamara, I’m the leader of the band; Er, um. Da-da-di-da- Da-da-di-da Da-da-di-in-the-land. Give me two minutes.’ And off he went as the news desk screamed: ‘Make it quick!’

Two minutes later, with deadline perilously close, Jack was back on to the news desk on a crackly line. ‘Got it!’ he screamed. ‘We’ll put you on to copy,’ someone shouted. Big mistake.

‘Copy? Keneally, Dublin.’ This at full blast with his usual background accompaniment of clinking glasses, noisy banter, and raucous laughter. ‘Oh, mi name is McNamara, I’m the leader of the band,’ he roared at full slur.

‘Oh fuck off, Jack. Yer pissed again,’ said the fed-up copy-taker. And pulled the plug.

They never did find out that second line.

Keneally is also remembered for phoning through a Dublin dog card – from two different countries. He came on to copy one afternoon and started dictating, but in the middle of it – ‘Keneally, Dublin, Dunmore Park de-da-de-da’ – he was called to board his plane for Amsterdam or somewhere. He didn’t bat an eyelid and told the copy-taker: ‘All for now, can you mark it: More later.’ And the line went dead. A couple of hours or so later he was back on to copy: ‘Keneally, Amsterdam, add Dunmore dogs…’ And proceeded to dictate the rest of the copy.

Ian Wooldridge once covered the legendary Iditarod sled dog race through the Alaskan wilderness and suffered temperatures that would freeze the earrings off a brass gypsy. Working telephones were scarcer than ATM machines and getting through to copy was a nightmare. After one really bad day he finally and thankfully established some sort of crackly contact with London copy. Only to hear from the other end a rather plaintive: ‘I haven’t officially started work yet, you know’.

Yes, we’ve all been there.

Giving – and taking – copy, often in the heat of battle, was a fine art. And, sadly, a lost art. It was often quite an experience. You dreaded the whispered words: ‘You’ll have to bear with me. I’m new.’ And often, at the end, with just the hint of a smirk: ‘Hang on. News desk want a word.’

Not to mention the bad lines and copy-taking classics such as Noisy Bacon Society for Noise Abatement Society, and exchanges along the lines of:

Crewe Sailors?’

‘No. Cru-saders’

‘Cruise what..?’

‘For fuck’s sake.’






Ranters offer

Against all odds

By Peter Reece

Pensions and pressmen have never been words that slept peacefully together since Cap’n Bob jumped ship. But if it’s any consolation to my Fleet Street colleagues who had staff jobs, we freelances placed our misguided faith in endowment pension policy salesmen, and for the most part we were thoroughly ripped off too.

But if I happen to mention in passing that the finest pension plan I ever discovered was all tied up in a lottery ticket you might think I’ve lost my marbles completely. For the morbidly sceptical, this is the point where I suggest you skip to the next story. Otherwise you may wish to read on.

It is, according to our friends at Camelot, a 14 million to 1 punt to hit a UK lottery jackpot, and even riskier if you happen to bet on your birthday numbers in the richer Euro Lottery.

Yet millions and millions of otherwise totally sensible people risk a few pounds every week in the hope that the miracle will happen. In fact it does. It could be YOU. The trouble is, it’s never you or me.

Then a couple of years back an old pal learned of my stupidity in buying tickets at the local Tesco and told me if I played in an on-line syndicate the chances of winning at least something was increased by 702% in the UK Lottery and a massive 3,600% if I employed syndicate play on the Euro.

When he went on to tell me how I could turn the lottery into an ever growing pension plan, I gave him that special look I have reserved for the next man who suggests he’s found Lord Lucan dressed as a woman and working behind the cosmetics counter in Harrods.

Then a funny thing happened. I won the lottery. Not a lot, but it was well worth banking the cheque. Then I won again and again and again. In fact if I don’t win something every week I get very ratty indeed.

Its is all down to two very clever guys in Wales (yes… the thought of investing my financial future in Welsh technology did strike something of a discordant note) who worked out the best odds of winning, and then devised a totally foolproof web-based method whereby anyone in the world* could play.

The UK Lotteries Council, gave it the thumbs-up, and the council secretary, Peter Jones, thought it such a good deal he invests a few pounds of his own money every week.

The syndicates work on two distinct levels. Anyone over 18 can sign in and become a player to take advantage of much better odds of winning something, if not the jackpot.

But as an affiliate member of the syndicate, players can go on to invite their friends and associates to play in a syndicate format too. That position cost the princely sum of £4.99 a year and delivers your own personal web site, up and running, done and dusted.

For each affiliate member who joins, there is potentially an instant reward. Find just five new players – it took me two days and half a dozen ‘phone calls – earns enough in commissions to ensure you are playing for the lottery, or lotteries, for free

Then as that original group of friends goes on to invite people to join, the commissions arrive in the form of a very welcome cheque. It tends to get a little bit bigger ever month, which is something of a novel experience for me.

In a nutshell, it was the finest £44.99 I ever invested in my life. That little investment bought me a superb web site that tracks every last detail of my lottery syndicates, pays for a month’s worth of lottery numbers, and ensures I never forget to buy a ticket.

Well over 2,000 total strangers from just about every country on the planet have joined my syndicates in the past couple of years and my pension cheque grows from month to month.

This is not a get-rich-quick scheme and was never designed to be so. But it is the only way I know where the boring words ‘pension plan’ can be translated as a whole load of pension earning fun.

You can join us if you wish by clicking on , reading the words, watching the movie and, if you are so inclined, going to the icon that says Join Now.

(* Our American cousins cannot play. Their economy is so bad that George Bush has banned the lads from using their credit cards for even a lottery ticket.)


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